One of the things that we learned in Bleach: The Thousand-Year Blood War is the fact that the Zangetsu that Ichigo knew from the very start was not the real version of Zangetsu. In fact, this Zangetsu revealed that he was actually there to suppress Ichigo’s true power, which is the combination of his Hollow and Shinigami sides. So, why did Old Man Zangetsu suppress Ichigo’s true Shinigami powers?
Old Man Zangetsu suppressed Ichigo’s true powers because he didn’t want him to become a Shinigami. As Ichigo’s Quincy side, Old Man Zangetsu thought that Ichigo was only going to be dragged into countless battles if he were to choose to become a Shinigami. He didn’t want Ichigo to get hurt if he chose to become a Shinigami.
While it might be true that Old Man Zangetsu was suppressing Ichigo’s powers the entire time, what was also true was that he really did care about Ichigo the same way a grandfather would. After all, Old Man Zangetsu represented Ichigo’s own version of Yhwach, who is the father of all of the Quincys. In that regard, Old Man Zangetsu didn’t want his “son” to get hurt but was happy enough to let go of Ichigo when he chose the path of the Shinigami.
Who Is Old Man Zangetsu
Ever since Ichigo learned how to use his Bankai, one of the things that we saw was the fact that his Zanpakutō was represented by an old man named Zangetsu. This Zangetsu was a man wearing a dark robe similar to the one that Ichigo wore in his original Bankai form. And this very same Zangetsu actually looked like Yhwach, albeit a somewhat younger version of the villain.
Of course, since we met Zangetsu, we have always thought of him as Ichigo’s Zanpakutō, which is the manifestation of the powers of a Shinigami. Every Shinigami has a unique Zanpakutō that manifests as a person within the inner world of a Shinigami’s powers. And Old Man Zangetsu seemed to be the manifestation of Ichigo’s own inner powers as a Shinigami.
However, that was not the case, as we just learned in episode 13 of Bleach: The Thousand-Year Blood War. When Ichigo’s Zanpakutō broke earlier in the storyline, he was forced to go to the Zero Squad’s base to reforge it. And reforging his Zanpakutō meant that he had to learn more about his past as he found out that he is part Quincy due to his mother’s side.
So, when Ichigo was about to have his Zanpakutō reforged, that was when he learned that Old Man Zangetsu was not his true Zanpakutō, and that was the reason why he had to say goodbye to him. In fact, this Zangetsu was a fake the entire time. And Ichigo needed to enter his inner world so that he could personally talk to this Zangetsu.
That was when Ichigo learned that Old Man Zangetsu was not the true Zangetsu but was actually the manifestation of his Quincy powers. Similar to how the Zanpakutō is the manifestation of a Shinigami’s powers, Old Man Zangetsu is the manifestation of Ichigo’s Quincy side, and that explains why he looks a lot like Yhwach. After all, Yhwach is the origin of the powers of all of the Quincy, and it makes sense that the representation of Ichigo’s Quincy side would look like the man that gave the Quincys their powers.
Old Man Zangetsu revealed to Ichigo that he was actually suppressing his true Shinigami powers the entire time and was only allowing Ichigo to borrow a portion of his true powers. On top of that, Old Man Zangetsu was also allowing Ichigo to use his Quincy powers as well, especially considering that this fake version of Zangetsu was his Quincy powers. As such, the entire time, Ichigo was using more of his Quincy side than his Shinigami side.
Why Did Old Man Zangetsu Suppress Ichigo’s Powers?
As mentioned, Old Man Zangetsu took on the form of Ichigo’s Zanpakutō (albeit a fake one) because he wanted to suppress Ichigo’s true Shinigami powers. So, why did Old Man Zangetsu keep Ichigo’s powers away from him?
The reason why Old Man Zangetsu decided to suppress Ichigo’s powers and hide the truth from him was the fact that he never wanted Ichigo to become a Shinigami. As mentioned, Ichigo was a hybrid of three different beings: Shinigami, Quincy, and Hollow. His Hollow side, of course, combined with his Shinigami powers to create his true Zanpakutō, which Old Man Zangetsu kept from Ichigo by suppressing it.
Old Man Zangetsu thought that if Ichigo had access to his true Shinigami powers, he would choose to become a Shinigami. Of course, this fake version of Zangetsu didn’t want Ichigo to become a Shinigami because he believed that he would be forced to fight against his will if he did indeed become a Shinigami. After all, Shinigamis are fated to fight Hollows and hardly have a choice in what they want to do with their lives. And if Ichigo were to become a Shinigami, Old Man Zangetsu was afraid that he would only get hurt.
In that regard, Old Man Zangetsu suppressed Ichigo’s powers not because he was a representation of Ichigo’s Quincy side but only because he legitimately cared for Ichigo. He was a true grandfather to Ichigo because he didn’t want the young man to get hurt by choosing to become a Shinigami.
But while he didn’t want Ichigo to become a Shinigami, he became proud of the man that he had become. Ichigo was now a strong young man whom Old Man Zangetsu watched with his own eyes. That was why he was now at peace to let him go as he realized that Ichigo was now strong enough to be able to handle himself as a Shinigami without getting hurt.
Because Old Man Zangetsu saw that Ichigo was now clear about his choice of wanting to be a Shinigami despite knowing his true nature, he decided that it was now time to let go because Ichigo had now made a choice. By choosing to become a Shinigami, Ichigo could now access the full power of his true Zanpakutō, which was his Hollow side combined with his Shinigami powers.
But while Old Man Zangetsu disappeared after finally letting go of him, Ichigo decided to embrace his Hollow side as well when he thanked Old Man Zangetsu and accepted him as a version of Zangetsu as well. That is most likely the reason why Ichigo’s true Zanpakutō took on the form of two swords, as both swords represented both versions of Zangetsu.